Even as a massive political faceoff has broken out over Vijay Mallya’s claim of meeting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before fleeing from India, Republic TV has accessed a ‘thank you’ note from Mallya to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The explosive note exposes not only Manmohan Singh’s direct intervention on behalf of Kingfisher Airlines, but also, yet another appeal by Mallya for another, larger intervention.
In the note, Mallya wrote that he was “relieved and pleased when you (Dr Singh) responded positively and expressed support for Kingfisher Airlines”, thereby confirming that the then Prime Minister had personally played a role in the financial quagmire surrounding the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
“I was very relieved and pleased when you responded positively and expressed support for Kingfisher Airlines which is the single largest Airline in our Country operating 380 flights daily to 60 destinations,” Mallya wrote, going on to disclose that Manmohan Singh had asked him to follow up with TKA Nair, an advisor to the then Prime Minister, who, in turn, “spoke to the concerned people in the Ministries involved.”
“You had asked me to follow up with Mr TKA Nair, which I did and I am deeply appreciative of the fact that Mr Nair immediately spoke to the concerned people in the Ministries involved”, Mallya wrote.
This stunning revelation makes abundantly clear that the Manmohan Singh PMO was essentially lobbying with other ministries on Mallya's behalf, so that his sinking Kingfisher Airlines could continue to operate. Following this, Mallya, however, says that TKA Nair accompanying the then PM on a visit to the US appeared to halt progress towards 'relief' for himself and Kingfisher.
Hence, Mallya reiterates his appeal for Manmohan Singh's "kind and urgent intervention", citing the number of flight bookings he has for October of that year.
"I am once again appealing to you for your kind and urgent intervention as we have over 10 lakh passengers booked to travel on Kingfisher Airlines during the festive month of October alone."
Then, Mallya makes his most brazen 'request':
“I would also request you to give due consideration to the current FDI policy which prohibits foreign Airlines from investing in Indian carriers. This needs urgent review and amendment so that Indian carriers can access strategic foreign investment for healthy re-capitalisation.”
Hence, in addition to whatever it was that Mallya was seeking from the then PMO, he also wanted the Aviation sector's FDI policy to be modified, seemingly speaking on behalf of the entire aviation sector.
The letter, which is undated, comes to light a day after Republic TV accessed secret papers which exposed communication between the RBI, India's central bank, and the state-owned SBI, India's largest bank and the bank with the maximum exposure to Kingfisher Airlines, where SBI was appealing for modifications to be made to the extant debt restructuring norms for the entire aviation sector simply on account of Kingfisher Airlines' financial travails. While the RBI acceded to at least some of SBI's recommendations, following which SBI provided relief to Kingfisher Airlines, two years later, in 2012, SBI wrote back to the RBI seeking further assistance for Kingfisher Airlines. In this letter, SBI cited that the government was considering the very same FDI policy change that Vijay Mallya sought from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his 'thank you' letter. To this, request, however, the RBI sent back a 'no'.